Monday, April 20, 2009

Steam isn't the Answer

Don't take this the wrong way, I actually think Steam is trying to innovate the game industry. If nothing else making digital distribution quick and easy is a big help to all the little developers out there. My problem is that when you look closely Steam isn't much of a solution in the grand scheme of things.

First off Steam doesn't stop piracy because hackers know ways to "un-steam" games and put them up on torrent sites. Plus, if Valve (the owner of Steam) decides they don't like you for some reason they can ban your account at which point all the games you've purchased and downloaded no longer work. Not to mention steam requires you to install intrusive DRM software on your computer which leads to another bunch of potential problems which I won't bother going into right now.

Then of course we have the big question of what happens if Steam goes out of business? And there are a significant number people out there that don't have access to broadband internet especially in rural areas....

So, take a step back and look at what we have here. Steam does a lot to protect publisher profits but what about the consumer? No trading games with your friends or selling used games is great for developers, but what about people who buy the games? Back before the days of Half-Life 2 you could lend some game that you weren't playing anymore to a friend living down the street. You can't do that with games purchased through Steam. Thus, what your left with is a system that is constantly trying to find new ways to weasel gamers out of there money. Naturally, a lot of consumers feel like there getting swindled so they increasingly turn to piracy as a way of retaliating against what they see as less than fair business practices.

What we need is a system that shrinks the gap between consumers and the industry. There has become too much hostility between these two groups and until both sides step down and start considering diplomatic solutions the conflict will just get more and more messy. Steam doesn't provide a negotiation table or even a bridge between these bitter rivals, rather it's a barbwire fence with a gate for those willing to agree to Valve's demands.

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